Have you ever heard of Jean De La Fontaine. He is a famous French ‘fables’ a lot of this work are taught and learn at school. Even so you truly need to read between the lines to discover the secrecy of his work, Fables are learn starting at elementary school. French children found them amazing, while Educated student learn that each animal represent a social class in French. For example the King is usually represented by a Lion, while the poor struggling working class is represented by the ‘Donkey’ who had just barely taste a blade of grass and risk his life for it. If you read “les animaux maladies de la peste” you will see that animal are judge differently for others and their crime penalty are based on their social class: stole a piece of bread you go to jail or loose your arm, kill someone you will walk free or consider to have done the right thing. hummm this situation do not seem so out of date.
You could tell me, why Jean De la Fontaine is not speaking freely in his work, what about the freedom of the speech? Jean De la Fontaine was born on July 8th 1621 in a time when ‘censure’ was the beast of the artiste. In order to speak more vividly, they use metaphor to disguise their ideas without been punish for their work.
(picture info: The Fables of La Fontaine
A Selection in English of Jean de La Fontaine, Illustrated by Jean-Noel Rochut, Translated and introduced by C. J. Moore ISBN: 9780863155710
Hardcover book; Floris Books; price $30.00)
(Book description: “Unashamedly borrowing his inspiration and material from Aesop’s fables, Jean de La Fontaine wrote his stories in French verse during the late seventeenth century. His fables have been popular with children and adults alike ever since. These are timeless stories of country folk, heroes of Greek mythology, and familiar creatures. Each tale contains a moral for living, as relevant today as they were 300 years ago”.)
This Fables is called “Le corbeau et le renard” (The Crow and the Fox) it is one of his most famous work and one of his earliest publication. (Do not worry I also publish the translation for you). As you will see, at the end of his fables, Jean De La Fontaine always end with a sentence or two of a morality related to his story. There is many more to follow, if you are interested click on the links below the fables.
Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
“Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois.”
A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit : “Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. “
Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.
Master Crow perched on a tree,
Was holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox attracted by the smell
Said something like this:
“Well, Hello Mister Crow!
How beautiful you are! how nice you seem to me!
Really, if your voice
Is like your plumage,
You are the phoenix of all the inhabitants of these woods.”
At these words, the Crow is overjoyed.
And in order to show off his beautiful voice,
He opens his beak wide, lets his prey fall
The Fox grabs it, and says: “My good man,
Learn that every flatterer
Lives at the expense of the one who listens to him.
This lesson, without doubt, is well worth a cheese.”
The Crow, ashamed and embarrassed,
Swore, but a little late, that he would not be taken again.
http://www.jdlf.com/lesfables/livrei/lacigaleetlafourmi (this one is my favorite, you get the translation and it is illustrated with picture and video telling the story)